Murder | Genesis 4:8
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Genesis 4:8 | ESV
You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God. Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine. Matthew 5:21-26 | MSG
“Don’t be like Cain, who was of the Evil One and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own works were evil and his brother’s righteous (1 John 3:14).” Such is John’s rather succinct diagnosis of Cain’s heart and the dynamics underlying the first murder in recorded history. It’s often noted that the first murder took place in the context of worship – a fittingly ironic observation that has continued to reverberate through every age, culture, and continent. Cain has a large tribe. And while many of us may immediately pride ourselves in never having actually killed anyone in disputes over worship or anything else, John doesn’t let us off so easily: “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” And just when we are about to protest that we don’t really hate anyone, he interrupts with the final blow to our self-righteous protest: “Anyone who has the goods and sees his brother in need of them but who then shuts up his compassion for him and does nothing – how does God’s love live there?” Jesus tag teams with John (as if we needed any more conviction here!): “Anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment (I love that many scribes inserted “without cause” after “angry,” as if to say, “Please, let me have the luxury of guilt-free anger when he really deserves it!”); anyone who insults, demeans, and condemns his brother is only sealing his own fated judgment.” Yes, we kill through our looks, through our insults, through our libels, our gossip, our apathy, our indifference. Now, the point of this reflection is not to pile a steaming hot load of guilt on us all first thing in the morning to accompany our coffee. It’s to serve notice, particularly to our more righteous, devout and worshiping selves, that there’s more than one way to earn the mark of Cain. He was a God-seeking worshiper, too. And his devout worshipful existence became the devil’s deadly killing ground. It’s some good introspection to hold on to – especially the next time we are clamoring for the death sentence on a convicted killer. In one way or another, we all share that cell, don’t we?
When it comes to anger and grievances, how good are you at keeping “short accounts”? Are there any disputes or grievances that are calling out for resolution right now? How will you move towards reconciliation, at least within yourself?
God, give me the grace to keep short accounts; to handle my anger in more healthy and productive ways, lest in burying my anger I only end up burying friendships and precious, life-giving relationships; lest in burying my anger I only succeed in burying myself. Have mercy, Lord. Through Christ.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.